As the candles are burning, we will remember them – National Day of Remembrance

Candlelight vigil

The month of May marks Domestic Violence Prevention Month and together with the Women’s Council for Family and Domestic Violence, Yorgum Aboriginal Corporation and the Lucy Saw Centre Association Inc, we came together as the darkness enveloped the day, on May 1, the National Day of Remembrance, and lit candles in solidarity to honour the women who have died by domestic homicide.

Domestic Violence Prevention month aims to facilitate discussion and awareness around Family and Domestic Violence (FDV) in the community, and as we stood in Harold Boas Gardens in West Perth on that cold night, we held our candlelight vigil to tell the stories of the victims and survivors and remember all those we have lost.

Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence CEO Angela Hartwig emceed the event and as she announced this was the third year that WA were holding the vigil, we joined the rest of the country in unison as they also remembered their victims. Delivering the harrowing statistics, the cold, hard truth cut deep.

Angela said for the period from 1 May 2018 to 30 April 19, twenty-six people have been killed as a result of domestic and family violence, compared to thirteen people the same time last year.

“There were ten women, seven men and nine minors and of all the deaths of women and children, a male perpetrator was responsible, except for one woman who was killed by her niece. Of the seven men killed, the perpetrators were one son, one brother, four women partners and one niece.” she said.

“When a family member is killed, not only does the immediate family become devastated, entire communities are affected, often finding it hard to comprehend that a partner or ex-partner could use horrific acts of violence to end the lives of their supposed loved ones.”

Angela Hartwig

Violence does not have a gender, but all forms of violence in our community need to stop.

There were some guest speakers at the event including Janine Freeman, MLA, Member for Mirrabooka. Janine gave a stirring speech, urging all people to find their voices.

Pictured: We lit a candle as we remembered

“We want to give that opportunity for people to be heard and to find their voice, and we need to say an absolute no to violence against women,” she said.

“DV is not something that happens to someone else, this is something that happens to you, your friends, your colleagues, your family…”

We heard from Gary Bentley tonight, who 10 years earlier, lost his sister Andrea, tragically to domestic homicide.

“We as a family have always made sure that Andrea’s story is told, and that is how we remember her.”

Gary Bentley

We learnt about the life Andrea lived and Gary reminisced about the strong, proud Aboriginal woman she was and how she was fiercely protective and would do anything for her family.

Pictured: Gary Bentley lights the candle alongside Anne Moore, Chair WCFDV

These are the stories we remember. Not the death or the pain; but the woman behind the violence.

Stopping Family Violence CEO Damian Green said we needed to come together in partnerships across the government, non-government and within the communities.

“We want to drive the message nationally that Australia will be looking to perpetrators to change their behaviours and take responsibility for their actions before it’s too late for their partners or family members,” he said.   

Dr Ann O’Neill, DV survivor, ambassador of Our Watch and founder of Angelhands delivered a harrowing and emotive snapshot of the world of DV, as she told her story.

“Nobody wants to be here tonight, but we are. We don’t want anyone to experience DV, and nobody wants to speak out of their heart through tears. But it is a privilege to be able to and to have our voices heard and our experiences acknowledged. That’s why I’m here tonight,” she said.

In the 25 years since Ann’s life was irreparably changed forever, she has reclaimed her life as a survivor of FDV and campaigned fearlessly for increased awareness and legislative change.

“Despite all that has been done, after the unthinkable has happened, you are still wandering in the wasteland on your own,” she said.

“Those voices need to be heard, so we need to stand tall, be united and demand we are heard. Their voices need to be heard and they will be remembered.”

Dr Ann O’Neill

We need to embrace that social change and have conversations about the cold reality of FDV and domestic homicide, and we need the violence to stop. Together we will rise and make our voices heard. We, as a country can and should be doing better.

Words by Jacqui O’Leary

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